Christian churches in Kenya struggle after being targeted by Islamist group

Members of the Al-Shabaab Islamist group killed 36 Christians and non-Muslims who worked at a quarry, north of Kenya last Dec. 2.

Churches in Kenya are struggling with the scale of practical and emotional needs after a series of attacks against Christians and non-Muslims in the country last week.

Church officials in Kenya are increasing their security efforts and have called for help in delivering professional trauma counselling after Muslim militants attacked Christians and non-Muslims, according to Release International, a UK-based organisation supporting the persecuted church worldwide.

Members of the al Shabaab Islamist group killed 36 Christians and non-Muslims working at a quarry in the north of Kenya on December 2. Muslim militants separated Christian and non-Muslim labourers, lined them up and shot them at close range. Two were reportedly beheaded.

Ten days prior to the massacre, the Islamist group killed 28 passengers after dragging them off a bus. The Nairobi-bound bus was largely filled with Christian passengers and they reportedly killed those who could not recite verses from the Koran. Al Shabaab carried out previous attacks against Kenyan churches last March, June, July and October.

Sheikh Ali Rage, official spokesman of the militant Islamist group, called the quarry attack a successful operation. In the group's press release, Rage said the quarry massacre is the latest in a series of attacks the group has planned and executed "to serve as a response to Kenya's occupation of Muslim lands and their ongoing atrocities therein".

They go on to state that their actions are in retaliation to airstrikes carried out against Somalia that led to the deaths of innocent Muslims and the destruction of their property.

"As Kenya persists in its occupation of Muslim lands, kills innocent Muslims, transgresses upon their sanctities and throws them in to prisons, we, Harakat Al Shabaab al-Mujahideen, will persist to defend our land and our people from their aggression," Sage said in the statement.

"We are uncompromising in our beliefs, relentless in our persuit, ruthless against the non believers and we will do whatever necessary to defend our Muslim brethren suffering from Kenya's aggression."

With the mounted attacks on Kenya, Release International said churches in the country are finding it hard to respond to the terrorist violence.

According to one Mombasa bishop who asked to be identified only as Elisha, the churches have become "soft targets" of al Shabaab.

"These are Muslim youths who have been radicalised," Elisha told Release. "Al Shabaab are recruiting and training many in Somalia."

Bishop Elisha also said al Shabaab has been recruiting local youth in Kenya who are familiar with the goings-on in their neighborhood. The young recruits then serve as informants of the Islamist group and tell them which area or church to attack next.

He said the churches need wisdom to deal with the radicalised youths in Kenya and called on Christians not to wage a counter-attack.

The bishop also pleaded for help in caring for the emotional wellbeing of survivors and victims' families, who have been traumatised by events.

"We also need workers who are trained in trauma counselling," Bishop Elisha said. [Lemuel Cacho, The Christian Today]